As demonstrated in our recent rundown of the 25 best Milwaukee albums of 2018 (not to mention our list of 10 standout Milwaukee EPs from 2018), a dizzying amount of great music was made and released in our fair city this year. And—surprise, surprise—a wealth of great music videos were released, as well. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2018 (finally, oh god, finally), join us as we take a look back on some of the funny, weird, creative, and downright impressive visuals set to music this year.
Abby Jeanne — “Be In The Sun”
During a year that included a successful “Fire In February” residency this winter, two excellent songs released for WMSE’s annual Record Store Day 7-inch, a flurry of high-profile festival gigs, a well-deserved $20,000 Backline grant, and being both the namesake and headliner of her recent “Cosmic Weekend,” Abby Jeanne also found time to put out an awesome music video for one of her new singles. The Eric Olson-directed “Be In The Sun” video features Abby, her backing band, and a graffiti artist doing their thing in a smokey warehouse while in the company of a classic convertible and a crowd of party-goers. The video seems to effortlessly match the song’s cool and relaxed style, and let you see one of the city’s most up-and-coming performers in a new light.
Amanda Huff — “Gravetalking”
There’s a glitched-out “Losing My Religion” vibe coursing through this Kristin Peterson-directed clip for Amanda Huff’s stunning “Gravetalking.” The glitch effects come courtesy of Blackbox Visual; everything else comes courtesy of an all-female cast and crew.
Buffalo Gospel — “18 Wheeler”
The video for “18 Wheeler”—Buffalo Gospel’s most upbeat offering on this year’s On The First Bell—chronicles the tough luck faced by a long haul trucker (played by bandleader Ryan Necci) and his pen pal/potential suitor at a rural motel. Set to the toe-tapping tune, the would-be lovers are victims of circumstance and poor planning, as they continually miss each other on the way to and from a motel and its neighboring tavern. Filmed at Cedar Lake Pub And Motel by Rick Ebbers, the video features cameos from the likes of Joseph Huber, Tab Conard (Holy Shit!), Steph Conard (Sugar Stems), and Milwaukee Record‘s own Josh Hoppert. “Bubba The Dog” also makes an appearance (courtesy of Hope Animal Rescues). Best yet, beloved Milwaukee news anchor Ted Perry turns up in the role of Cedar Lake Pub bartender.
Calliope — “Sea Of Red”
Motorcycles and bars. Shots and femme fatales. Sleazy motels and Super 8. Cigarettes and switchblades. The grindhouse-inspired clip for Calliope’s “Sea Of Red” (from the band’s 2018 album Chapel Perilous) is peak Calliope. Shot, directed, and edited by Victor Buell IV, the video serves as a tribute to all things pulpy, and takes Milwaukee back to the days when Frank’s Power Plant was still open.
GGOOLLDD — “The Way That I Feel”
Can GGOOLLDD even be considered a Milwaukee band these days? After all, the electro-pop group is on the road a lot, as evidenced by this tour-diary video for “The Way That I Feel.” Watch Margaret Butler and her bandmates goof around in green rooms across the country and two Canadian provinces, dance in houses in Los Angeles and Phoenix, don unicorn horns with kids at a Detroit bowling alley, get rowdy in “some hotel” in Seattle, and spend time at a “decrepit shack” somewhere in New Mexico.
Guerrilla Ghost — “Everybody Rap”
Last month, Guerrilla Ghost released “nine tracks of brooding electronics, emotional catharsis, and incendiary political commentary” in the form of their sophomore record, Perpetually Sad Motion Machine. Prior to the album dropping, the experimental hip-hop project put out a visual accompaniment for the release’s lead single. Directed by Ross Monagle, the “Everybody Rap” music video brings rapper/vocalist Chuck Jones and producer Martin Defatte to a variety of locations. On top of dramatizations of the duo raising hell in a record executive’s office, the visually striking video also shows Guerrilla Ghost popping up near the Fiserv Forum, in downtown Racine, in Cactus Club, and at The Vanguard.
King Courteen — “Bucker Boy”
Over the summer, we checked in with King Courteen as he (singer-songwriter Michael Gerlach) wandered around Milwaukee City Hall in his “Simeon The Petrus” music video. A few months after releasing that striking visual project, Gerlach and director Damien Blue returned in November with an even more impressive music video for another King Courteen song. It’s safe to say “Bucker Boy” could be the best Milwaukee-made music video of 2018. Though both Gerlach and Blue are local, they went all the way to a southeastern Utah ghost town to capture the astonishing visuals they paired to the haunting and minimalist acoustic composition. The video’s concept is remarkably simple, but the setting and the cinematography do the majority of the heavy lifting to help set this project apart from other locally-shot efforts.
LUXI — “Lost Letters” (video game)
Some artists make music videos; others sit down and make full-blown video games to accompany their work. Leave it to tireless electronic star LUXI to do the latter. The moody, hand-crafted game for Lost Letters (Of Seraphina) (created simultaneously with the album itself) lets players explore a post-apocalyptic set to LUXI’s similarly moody, hand-crafted music. Many Milwaukee videos boast striking visuals, but only one boasts visuals courtesy of the Unreal Engine and Windows 10.
Midwest Death Rattle — “Square Wave”
Also directed by Monagle—the videographer behind the Guerrilla Ghost video we’d mentioned earlier—Midwest Death Rattle’s “Square Wave” music video captures some fun in the Lincoln Warehouse. Footage of the band performing the sleek and dance-able title track from this year’s standout EP is interspersed with shots of a wild (and decidedly weird) party. The costumed party-goers occasionally take a break from dancing and reach into the fridge for a cold one…and a surprise. Come for the awesome new Midwest Death Rattle song and stay for the shocking twist. No people and only one kitchen appliance were harmed in the making of this video.
Mini Meltdowns — “Number On Me”
This year brought the debut of to Mini Meltdowns, a new Milwaukee-Nashville punk project that features current and former members of The Promise Ring, Limbeck, Dashboard Confessional, Rx Drugs, and The Benjamins in its ranks. After the supergroup released its debut 7-inch in spring, the Jon Phillip-led endeavor treated listeners to a visual pairing for the first Mini Meltdowns single. The “Number On Me” video was filmed at a variety of romantic and recognizable locations throughout Milwaukee. In it, director Nick Sommer documents a budding relationship that quickly goes awry. After the leading man (played by Sommer) loses his partner, he takes some unconventional measures to try and recreate the relationship he once had. Phillip also appears in the video, singing along as a he stows away in the atypical and artificial couple’s trunk.
Paper Holland — “Sea [Sic]”
More than five years after putting out its debut record, Paper Holland released Galápagos in June. The long-awaited sophomore album brought out the band’s distinct “trop-pop” style and wisped listeners away on an aural island getaway. The video for “Sea [Sic]”perfectly fits both the song and the entire album’s escapist theme. Shot and directed by Joe Ludwig, the “Sea [Sic]” music video features the band letting loose on two different Milwaukee beaches during two drastically different types of weather. Watch Paper Holland play on the sands of South Shore Beach and on the snow at Bradford Beach. If the current conditions have you down, treat this video as a four-minute vacation.
Q The Sun — “Psychic Spiral”
The video for Q The Sun’s hypnotic “Psychic Spiral” is a little bit Pulp Fiction, a little bit Eyes Wide Shut. Hey, is that the field outside the Urban Ecology Center? Yes it is. Hey, is that Christopher Gilbert and Bo Triplex? Yes it is. Hey, is it another stellar New Age Narcissism video from filmmakers Damien Blue, Austin Manchon, and Quinn Hester? You bet it is.
Soda Road — “Four White Horses”
There’s a resigned wistfulness blowing through Varsity Of Winter, the debut album from Milwaukee’s Soda Road. Written by former Sat. Nite Duets member Stephen Strupp during the Polar Vortex of 2014, it’s a melancholy, stay-at-home-and-bundle-up kind of record. Not that there isn’t time for some self-deprecating levity: Take “Four White Horses,” a shuffling country ditty that contains this zinger: “I’d lift weights but they’re too heavy / Rather lift lines from Tom Petty.” Then there’s the lovely, hand-crafted video by Brooklyn-based artist Kate Klingbeil, which speaks for itself.
Soul Low — “Bad Set Of Moods”
We’re born, we’re young (for a while), we’re old (for a while), and we die. It’s as simple as that. Actually, the “old” part tends to take up most of our time. And what do we tend to dwell on during that “old” part? The “young” part, of course. So it goes in the video for Soul Low’s “Bad Set Of Moods,” a stealthy and bittersweet examination of the fleeting joys of youth, the dangers of nostalgia, and the time-honored ridiculousness of roller skating. Directed by Minneapolis-based filmmaker Jake Nokovic, the bulk of the video brings to life the song’s manic chipperness, though a pair of bookends tap into an underlying bitterness. Plus, singer Jake Balistreri strikes a serious pose on the rink.
Von Alexander — “Demons”
Light, color, sound. It’s all on display in the eye-popping (and unnerving) video for Von Alexander’s 2017 track “Demons.” The clip, directed by Brett Schmidt and David Naida, cuts back and forth from a set bathed in Suspiria-like reds to a starkly lit wooded scene. Both are straight out of horror movies, and both bring the song’s themes to terrifying life.
Various artists, filmmakers, and supporters — “Public Domain”
Though we’d feel bad giving our own visual venture one of the 15 slots on the list, we also feel the need to acknowledge and thank all those who have allowed our monthly “Public Domain” music video series to continue and thrive in 2018. First and foremost, we want to thank Cheston Van Huss of Effigy MKE (hire him!) for all the work he’s done. With tight time constraints and equally demanding deadlines, our trusted videographer manages to shoot, record/mix, edit, and hand in an outstanding music every month. By year’s end, Cheston will have directed 11 of the 12 “Public Domain” installments this season (and 30 of 32 since the series started close to three years ago). Wes Tank and Kelly Anderson directed the other one in 2018. Others who made this year’s video possible include: Travis Whitty, Jason Hillman, Ellie Jackson, Grant Steskal, Joseph Huber, and Josh Evert.
Of course, all Cheston and company’s efforts would be for nothing if it weren’t for all the musicians who took the time to select, learn, and adapt a song from the public domain. This series wouldn’t exist without all the brave and creative Milwaukee bands and solo artists who accepted this challenge. This year, we also opened “Public Domain” up to national artists, which led to amazing adaptations of aged material by the likes of In Tall Buildings, The Handsome Family, and PEARS. This thank you also extends to the pair of projects whose videos haven’t debuted yet this year.
Lastly, we can’t forget our sponsors. Colectivo Coffee has supported this strange and wonderful video series from day one, and they’ve given us the freedom and resources to do this the way we want. Along the way, Transfer Pizzeria Café came aboard to help us put in more resources and reach even more people. This year also brought Milwaukee Pride and 3 Sheeps Brewing Company into the sponsorship mix. Huge thanks to Cactus Club for lending us their space and their stage when necessary, and thanks to all of you for watching these videos. They’re very special to us. Be on the lookout for more “Public Domain” episodes in 2019!